The last thing Sir Kevan Collins, chief executive of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), wants teachers to do is to log on to the organisation's Teaching and Learning Toolkit and read it like a prescription: do this, then this, this number of times a day.
“We are absolutely not looking to nail what works – there are no absolutes in this,” he explains. “It is always about trying to reduce your uncertainty, to get a bit more confidence about what you do.”
For Sir Kevan, research is only useful when it is viewed in the context of a teacher’s own classroom and is part of a much broader body of knowledge.
“It is about being evidence-backed or evidence-informed. What I do not want it to be is another stick to beat teachers with, someone else telling them what to do. All we can ever do is tell them what worked, not what will work.
“You need a body of knowledge that comes together…teaching is the orchestration of a huge range of knowledge at once. That is why it is so complicated.”
He expands upon this theme in the latest episode of Tes Podagogy, discussing whether research is useful to teachers and how it should be used.
Evidence in teaching
He also tackles criticisms of the EEF’s work, including the use of “months' progress” as a measure of the potential impact of an intervention, the reliance on randomised controlled trials and the lack of analysis of specific special educational needs and disability interventions.
Across all these themes, though, is an insistence that research is something that should empower teachers, not dictate to them.
“It should be the starting point of a conversation,” he says, “not telling you what to do”.
You can listen for free by downloading the podcast from iTunes or listening below.